Terroir opened just a few years ago, but it already seems like one of the elder statesmen of the East Village restaurant scene. The space is small and comfortable and the staff is friendly and welcoming. The tables and utensils are communal, and the focus is on small plates to go with the extensive wine and beer menu. If you go before 6 PM, you can take advantage of Happy Hour specials on the drinks, most notably a free glass of sherry (I'd recommend the Oloroso) to go along with the food. Oh, did I mention the food? It's excellent, and there are plenty of vegetarian options.
The menu is split into different sections. Under "Little Bar Snacks" you can find marinated cremini mushrooms ($5), served at room temperature and bathed in luscious olive oil, fresh thyme, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I normally don't care for balsamic, as its aggressive flavor tends to overwhelm whatever it's on the plate with, but here the sweet acidity cut through the richness of the oil. This is good for sharing, but it's not something to order as an appetizer.
Under what the menu calls "Fried Stuff" you'd be wise to order the beet risotto balls with gorgonzola ($7). These are golf ball-sized croquettes made of bright red risotto and infused with the flavor of gorgonzola. The breaded exterior is expertly fried, giving contrasting crispness to the creaminess of the risotto. There's a subtle sweetness to gorgonzola that matches wonderfully with the flavor of the beets.
There's only one vegetarian panino on the menu, the grilled radicchio with smoked mozzarella and red peppers ($11). The bread is nice and crispy, and the smoky flavor of the mozzarella is good, but the balsamic vinegar bathes the radicchio so thoroughly it overwhelms the flavor of everything else.
At the top of this page you'll see my favorite item on the menu, the tomato and egg bruschetta. The bread is hearty and crusty, and topped with warm tomato sauce and a soft cooked egg yolk. It's not often that a dish has both brightness and richness, but that's the effect here: the sweet acidity of the tomato paired with the luxurious texture of the yolk.
I was seriously impressed with the food at Terroir. Sometimes wine bars don't give much thought to the food they serve, in deference to the wine. But at Terroir, there is evident care put into the menu. The food is thoughtfully prepared, and vegetarians like me will have a lot to choose from. I can't wait to go back.
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